Back to School Resource Guide

Annette McDermott
Ready for back to school!

Whether you are teacher preparing for a new year or a parent buying school supplies and clothes, back-to-school season doesn't have to be a stressful time. With a little planning and some helpful resources at your fingertips, you can cruise through the season with ease.

Resources for Parents

No doubt, it's challenging to prepare kids for a new school year. Everything from new clothing to supplies to getting mentally prepared for success, takes time, energy and savvy. Be in-the-know with the latest tips and resources.

Clothes Shopping

While starting the new school year in high style might be your child's highest priority, getting a good deal on back-to-school essentials is probably yours. These resources and tips can help you meet both goals.

  • Check out the latest kids' magazines to see what's popular in kids' hairstyles. Getting your child's hair cut a couple weeks before school starts allows her time to work with it, especially if it's a new hairstyle.
  • Teens are often wanting the latest back-to-school looks because they want to fit in. However, your child may beat to a different drum so consider allowing her some freedom of expression when buying clothes.
  • Younger boys aren't as concerned with fashion as they are with having fun. Try getting them involved by choosing shirts and accessories featuring favorite superheroes or video games.
  • You can keep your back-to-school budget in check when you purchase just the fashion essentials. Look for clothes you can mix and match and buy several colors when they're on sale.
  • You can also stock up on essentials like jeans, thermals and polos from discount retailers like Steve and Barry's. Shopping at a store that offers basics for everyone can save time too.
  • Before you go shopping for clothes, double check sizes since kids can grow a lot during the summer. To help you stick to your budget, make the rounds of your favorite stores to see what's available and what's on sale before you buy.
  • Wondering what the latest back-to-school fashion trends are? Pay close attention to kids' clothes and accessories when you're out and about to figure out what trends are hot.

School Supplies and Gear

For many parents, the dreaded school supply list seems to get longer each year. Use these resources to make shopping a breeze.

  • Searching for back-to-school supplies doesn't have to be a nightmare. In July and August, you can pick up school supplies almost anywhere you shop, although they'll probably cost more at grocery stores and drugstores.
  • Create a school supply box. Purchase a few basic supplies and add them to the box throughout the year whenever you're at an office supply store or find something on sale. This helps avoid the last minute trips for basic essentials.
  • Help kids stay organized with the best school backpacks. Kids can add a personal touch by decorating their backpack or adding key chains.
  • Before you shop, make a list of what you need and see if you have items you can reuse or repurpose. Thinking about recycling what you already have first can lead to a lot of savings.

First Day of School

The first day of school can be nerve-wracking. Fight nervousness with these awesome tips.

  • If your child is fearful about the first day of school, enlist a friend for him to talk to. Chances are, the friend is fearful too.
  • Make a special breakfast the first day of school. Starting the day off on a full stomach can help your child's brain focus on the task ahead.
  • Be sure your child is prepared ahead of time and has everything he needs. If you have the chance, visit your child's classroom and the teacher before school starts.
  • If it's your child's first year of school, turn to the experts for advice. Many parents have gone before you in this journey. For example, author Anna Jane Hayes offers a cache of invaluable tips based on her years of experience working with preschoolers on the show, Sesame Street.
  • Make your child's first day of kindergarten successful by going through the school morning routine several times in advance.
  • Make a big deal out of buying supplies and clothes with your kindergartner. If you have older kids, enlist them to tell their younger sibling how much fun kindergarten will be.
  • For many tweens and young teens, navigating middle school is like navigating a jungle. Since kids aren't used to changing classes, visit the school ahead of time and do a couple walk-throughs of their schedules. Talk to your kids about avoiding gossip and rumors or bullying. Make sure they know they can come to you if they are in an uncomfortable situation.
  • Hone in on kids' talents to find an extracurricular activity that will keep them busy and help build social connections. If you can find something in the summer that will help your child build friendships before school starts, that's even better.
  • Keep safety in mind and give your child back-to-school safety tips that are applicable whether he walks, rides the bus or car pools. Talk about what to do if a stranger approaches, how to get home, and pertinent information if you have an emergency and aren't able to pick your child up for some reason.

Celebrate Back-to-School

Approaching the new school year with celebration instead of apprehension helps builds anticipation. The following ideas add a positive vibe to back-to-school prep.

  • Celebrate the first day of school with a back-to-school cake. Enjoy it with just family or invite a few friends over to celebrate.
  • Commemorate back-to-school with a special picture collage or by burying a time capsule in the backyard. These eight creative ideas help get kids excited about a new school year.
  • Kids can create a book about their summer or create a back-to-school goal chart. They'll want to start school and show off their handiwork after making back-to-school crafts.
  • Explore fun and unique ways to cover textbooks. Consider using fabric scraps and fabric pens or kraft paper and sequins, stickers or markers.
  • Use fun and inexpensive back-to-school activities to create a positive back-to-school buzz.
  • Buy a few special school supplies and wrap them. Folders or notebooks featuring favorite characters work well. Present the gift to your child on the first day of school.

Tips for Saving Money

If your budget is tight, back-to-school may mean worry for your wallet. However, we have several ways you can save money on everything you need for starting the school year:

  • If you are strapped for cash, check out organizations that offer free school supplies for kids in need.
  • Some things in life really are free. Look for free giveaways and product samples for everything from snacks and school supplies to slightly used dorm room furniture and electronics.
  • If your child attends a school that requires uniforms, it may save you money over the long run. Peruse store websites or sale flyers each week and stock up when items go on sale. To stay within your budget on the initial outlay for uniform gear, try these tips on getting school uniforms for a discount.
  • Look for free and low-cost community services and activities for children. School means lots of reading, but you can borrow books from school and local libraries. Many after-school sports, clubs and groups for kids are free or low cost.
  • If your child is looking for homework help, look into free online tutoring.

Resources for Teachers

It's not just parents who have a lot to take care before school starts. Teachers have a great deal to do to prepare for a new batch of students.

  • Back-to-school themes add excitement to the school year and help foster a sense of community in the classroom.
  • Plan a back-to-school classroom scavenger hunt for new students.
  • Give boring classroom bulletin boards a fresh look. Make an interactive bulletin board by having students post reasons they're happy or what they did over the summer.
  • Every new year should start with a lesson about school safety. These worksheets are great options.
  • Interview students about their goals for the year or what they learned over the summer. If kids are old enough, have them interview each other.
  • Prep the classroom and get ready for students' return with these ideas for teachers.
  • Send a postcard to new students over the summer to introduce yourself and break the ice.
  • Have students start a journal. Classroom and homeschool teachers will also enjoy creating back-to-school poems with students.

A Smooth Transition

For kids, transitioning from carefree summer days to the classroom can be difficult. When parents, students, and teachers arm themselves with knowledge and incorporate fun activities into back-to-school planning, they'll make that transition easier. Comment and let us know your favorite ways to ease into the school year!

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Back to School Resource Guide